The community of Guilford came together to celebrate the first day of the Lunar New Year on Friday February 12. This year is the Year of the Ox, the second zodiac animal in the lunar calendar observed by many Asian countries. Organized by the Department of International Studies and the International Club, the celebration featured an array of guest speakers and cultural presentations to not only immerse people in the holiday spirit, but also to explain the cultural significance of the New Year. lunar.
Although the event was held online to comply with COVID-19 regulations, speakers from the Guilford community brought life and energy to the online celebration.
Eric Mortenson, professor of religious studies, gave a presentation on the lunar calendar while his son, Søren, recited a poem about a snowman in Mandarin. History teacher Zhihong Chen provided a brief history of the Lunar New Year and covered its significance before introducing the upcoming guest speaker Japanese language teacher Hiroko Hirakawa who spoke about the Japanese tradition of setsubun associated with the New Year. lunar.
George Guo, professor of political science, demonstrated Chinese calligraphy, writing both “The Year of the Ox” and a short poem in an elegant style. Senior and President of the Nyima Lama International Club described the Lunar New Year celebrations called Losar, celebrated in Nepal and Tibet. Timothy Kircher, the director of the Department of International Studies, ended the evening by leading the participants in a short demonstration of tai chi.
Sue Chen, acclaimed musician and teacher at a multitude of schools including High Point University, John Hopkins University, Greensboro Day School and Chinese Heritage School, joined in to help celebrate the Lunar New Year. She showed examples of traditional Chinese stringed instruments, including the Chinese zither and Chinese dulcimer, and ended her session with a live performance on a wind instrument.
The celebration was so invigorating and engaging that the event lasted 30 minutes over time to ensure that each speaker had enough time to cover their topic. Most of the participants stayed in time, delighted by the rich culture and history of the Lunar New Year.
Lunar New Year is a celebration of the New Year on the lunisolar calendar, marked by the first new moon, which typically falls between January 21 and February 20. A lunisolar calendar has months depending on the lunar cycle, where each new moon marks a new month. The years, however, are solar, marked by the 365-day rotation of the Earth around the sun. The Lunar New Year is celebrated in many Asian countries, including China, Nepal, Tibet, Singapore, and Indonesia.
While there are various traditions surrounding the celebration of the Lunar New Year, they all center around the themes of happiness, fortune, and health. The Lunar New Year is meant to drive away all the bad luck from the previous year and welcome good fortune for the new year. Celebration is usually a time for friends and family to come together and revel in the possibilities and luck that the New Year might bring.
The wide array of speakers and topics were exactly what lead organizer Timothy Kircher had planned. Kircher, along with other faculty, staff and students on campus, planned this event in the hope that attendees would gain a greater sense of community and a sense of fresh beginnings supported by the traditions of many cultures. Especially since Guilford did not host a Lunar New Year celebration in 2020 due to COVID-19, Kircher felt it was important for the community of Guilford to have the chance to celebrate in 2021.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions forcing the celebration to be entirely virtual, Kircher’s goals have always been clearly achieved. The celebration exposed attendees to many cultural traditions and lessons about the significance of the Lunar New Year to many countries in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Kircher expressed his joy at the learning and engagement that occurred during the celebration. “It’s a celebration of (diversity) and cultural awareness,” he said.
Kircher’s feelings were echoed by Diyaa Kaufman, treasurer of the International Club.
“I hope (attendees) enjoy the exposure (to new cultures) and another way to come together as a community at a time when everyone is so isolated,” Kaufman commented. “Learning something new is always a bonus. ”
Similar to the number of countries using the Lunar New Year as a time to get together with family and friends, Kaufman believed that a Lunar New Year celebration could help the Guilford College community come together during the pandemic and reaffirm his wishes for good luck and better fortune.